Newfield Does It Again

Last week I posted an entry on this blog encouraging readers to read an article on academic freedom and tenure by Christopher Newfield, published in Inside Higher Ed.  Now Newfield has posted a kind of follow up piece, entitled Academic Freedom and the Very Serious People on the Remaking the University blog, which he edits with Michael Meranze.  It too is a must-read.

Newfield takes on the shameful attacks on University of Wisconsin professor Sara Goldrick-Rab by the Executive Committee of the Wisconsin-Madison Academic Senate, which John Wilson has exposed on this blog, links these to similar actions at his own University of California, and concludes that we faculty have a problem with what Paul Krugman has called “Very Serious People,” defined elsewhere as “people whose beliefs are reinforced and widely circulated so that they are socially and politically influential, even when they are manifestly wrong.”

By letting our administrators and our boards — and, sadly, some of our more intimidated and self-interested colleagues — speak for us, Newfield argues, we create a situation in which

Public universities also have a serious VSP problem. It  fuels our intellectual crisis of purpose and blocks good communication with the public.

We faculty have saved ourselves enormous time and effort by letting our own VSPs run the operation inside and out. But we can’t afford this anymore.  We’re going to have to practice open public argumentation instead, as I was trying to say in IHE.  What I mean is that we can’t have academic freedom without organizational democracy.  Academic freedom’s current decline is good proof of that.

Go read his post.  It’s here:


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